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Bigfoot spotted in Show Low

SHOW LOW – What happens when you put a pipefitter, an artist and a blacksmith together? You get Mbm Artisans — Marc Simpson, Bobby Roberts and Mark McClain, environmental artisans who not only found a use for discarded motorcycle tires, but definitely have crafted a 12 foot 6 inch high sculpture of the elusive Bigfoot, on display in a Show Low neighborhood.

By trade Simpson is a pipefitter, Roberts an artist and McClain a blacksmith. They can do murals and all forms of art. Roberts painted a flower mural on a container (pod) for a company as a demo and bees flocked to the artificial flowers on the pod because they looked so real. She said the U.S. Forest Service saw it and bought that container. McClain has wood and metal carvings at Bear Wallow Antiques in Lakeside and each of them can draw and paint pretty-much anything.

As artists, they hope their environmental tire sculpture of Bigfoot will lead to commissioned art projects for them. The three say they are “just driven to make things.”

Working together on a job – the three do welding and construction, they discovered an artistic link between them. Drawing from the right side of their brains, these three have found a niche’ that addresses both an environmental concern and an outlet for their creativity. In fact, their brains have been working overtime. This project took them about three and a half weeks working six to eight hours on it every day.

Roberts had been looking at tire art and told the guys they could create something like she had been looking at online. Heading out to a local motorcycle shop, they found tires – about 400 of them – and loaded them up in their trailer and Roberts said, “Now, we are committed.”

After getting started, they realized they had to come up with a way to cut the motorcycle tires which are vastly different than car tires. Curved for leaning, they are not easily cut. They went to Harbor Freight and purchased every kind of tool you can think of to see what would work for the project. When Roberts made her own blade for cutting, Simpson and McClain came up with their own blades too and all had to be sharp – very sharp.

As they got into the project, they actually had to take Bigfoot apart to reinforce his legs with steel so he could stand erect and not be blown over. They also adjusted his stance to resemble photos they had seen of different people’s perception of the big guy. They had to use sheetrock screws to secure the rubber to the steel. According to McClain they used around 400 to 500 screws.

They wanted to finish their project in time for the Show Low 4th of July Parade, but didn’t quite make it. But, they did come up with more ideas as they continued to work on it. While at Auto Zone, Simpson casually mentioned that some taillights he saw would make good eyes for Bigfoot. They added them and used a battery, neatly hidden under the beard by the neck, where they can turn them on.

They are now on a roll. They would like to sell their Bigfoot so they can continue their tire art. Roberts has made doggie beds, chairs, planters and more with the tires. She is taking orders and making them as more people find out about these unique creations.

Their Bigfoot sits in the front yard of Roberts’ and Simpson’s home at 660 S. 11th St. in Show Low and necks are turning as they drive by. Their Bigfoot won’t blow over with the wind, and they are not concerned with someone stealing him. He can, however, be moved with heavy equipment, and they have a Bobcat they can use to do that.

“We are turning trash into treasure,” said Roberts.

Mbm Artisans can be reached at mbmartisans@gmail.com or you could just do the drive by and see their Bigfoot yourself.

Statewide Rural Policy conference coming to Round Valley

EAGAR – Rural Arizona is about to get some special attention this month in the form of the Arizona Rural Development Council’s 13th Annual Rural Policy Forum which is being held August 7th – 9th in the Round Valley High School.

“We are really excited that they are coming to our area,” Springerville Town Manager Joe Jarvis said. “We think that the forum will be a great opportunity for rural businesses, individuals, governments and other entities to come together to discuss ideas that matter to us.”

Eagar’s Town Manager, Terry Hinton, has attended this forum before when it was held in southern Arizona, and he is excited at the prospect of attracting new visitors who will hopefully fall in love with the area. “It’s also good for cross-promotion of the areas,” he said.

As this event will draw interested parties from all over the state, there will likely be some good opportunities to create cross-promotion between businesses, organizations and localities.

This year’s Rural Policy Forum will feature over 60 presenters during the three-day event, and around 300 attendees are expected, including business owners, tourism professionals, local and county government officials, higher education, tribal leadership and non-profit leadership. And while the event might include some important attendees, such as Rep. Tom O’Halleran on Thursday morning, the event is not exclusive.

“Locals there are more than welcome to attend if they’re interested in coming out,” Kimber Lanning, executive Director of Local First Arizona, says. “It’s for those who are rural advocates and stakeholders.” “Stakeholders,” she explained, include the people who live and work in rural areas of the state and also politicians, business owners, city and county government officials and non-profits that want to see rural Arizona thrive.

Local First Arizona is the foundation that oversees the Arizona Rural Development Council program. The Arizona Rural Development Council (AZRDC) program is Arizona’s officially recognized State Rural Development Council.

State councils such as the AZRDC bring together governmental entities from federal, state, tribal and local branches, along with private businesses and non-profits, to promote development and opportunities to rural areas. The AZRDC’s Rural Policy Forum is an event where rural leaders and stakeholders from all over the state can come together with business and non-profit entities to collaborate on solutions to the unique problems of rural living and entrepreneurship, such as sustainability, economics, health care, broadband, grant writing, and other key issues.

Round Valley was chosen for this year’s forum location over other rural areas in the state after a convincing proposal put together by Karalea Cox of Eagar showed AZRDC’s Rural Advisory board that Springerville and Eagar offered everything they needed for a successful event and that the event would have the support of local governments and businesses.

“The Rural Advisory board includes one person from each county, and they review the different communities that are interested in hosting,” Lanning said. “[The proposal] was selected based on the criteria, and people are really excited about the opportunity to come here.”

“Arizona will not be successful unless rural Arizona is successful,” Kimber Lanning said. “It has to be a broad look on how we can be successful. Most of our food comes from rural areas. There’s a lot of innovation happening in rural areas. It’s unconscionable that we wouldn’t be out there, trying to spread the word about great things that are happening.”

General admission tickets are available for $125. The event is being catered for breakfast and lunches by local restaurants and businesses. Special evening events as well as an AAED professional development credit module are listed as optional add-ons. Tickets, as well as a full agenda for the event, are available online at AZRDC.org.

Amber Shepard is an local journalist covering municipal governments and other Apache County topics.

Sen. Allen waging a ‘philosophical battle’

NAVAJO COUNTY — The state senate race in Rim Country and the White Mountains is already heating up with the eruption of charges of racially-tinged rhetoric and misleading statements. The dustup involves the District 6 Senate seat, currently held by Sen. Sylvia Allen.

The first controversy involves remarks made by Sen. Allen about the changing demographics of Arizona both in Payson and during a speech in Phoenix citing statistics that the average age of Hispanics in Arizona is 27 compared to an average age of 44 for whites. She commented that “We are not replacing ourselves. You’re going to see so many changes coming it will make your head spin.”

Democratic opponent retired Army Col. Felica French decried Allen’s comments as “nativist” and “divisive.”

The Phoenix New Times released an audio recording of another speech she delivered in which she remarked that demographic changes will make the US “look like South American countries very quickly.” (https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/arizona-state-senator-fears-decline-of-white-birth-rate-11333367)

She based both speeches in part on demographics research by Dr. James Johnson, a business professor at the University of North Carolina. He has studied population growth in the south, interracial marriage trends, declining economic prospects for men, a rise in children living with grandparents and increased immigration and what he calls the “browning of America.” However, he has argued that the changing demographics of the nation will actually give the US an entry to global markets.

Sen. Allen said the nation must control immigration. “We can’t provide that when people are just flooding us and flooding us and flooding us and overwhelming us so we don’t have time to teach them the principles of our country any more than we’re teaching our children today,” according to the New Times audio recording of the meeting.

French blasted those comments saying “I firmly believe that diversity is one of our country’s enduring strengths. I am proud to have served more than three decades with countless immigrants in the US military and to have had a grandmother who immigrated from Mexico. I have traveled from one end of the district to the other, knocking on hundreds of doors. What I see are people of all backgrounds working side by side, to make this corner of Arizona a better place to raise their families. The fear and divisiveness Senator Allen is spreading does not align with the values of LD6.”

Sen. Allen responded to French’s comments via email, saying, “Obviously, Ms. French did not listen to my talk. She is just regurgitating what “The New Times” calculated interpretation reported. Diversity is not the issue, racism is not the issue, but socialism is the issue I was addressing. We owe it to those who have come here for a better life to understand the formula for the reason America has succeeded in giving millions the blessings we enjoy each day. If we do not teach them why America is different and instead embrace those governing principles that Ms. French and her party espouse, we will implode upon ourselves like Venezuela.”

The Arizona Education Association has also criticized Allen’s comments, and called for her removal from the chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee.

“Arizona students deserve a chair of the Arizona State Senate Education Committee who recognizes and celebrates diversity, not one who uses children to spread fear and intolerance. Senator Allen’s statements diminish our confidence that she can bring an unbiased eye to politics that impact all of Arizona’s children. Therefore, I am asking for Arizona State Senate President Karen Fann (R-1) to remove Senator Allen as chair of the Education Committee. Elected leaders who are elevated to key roles in our state must represent everyone and strive to be inclusive of all voices. We embrace our differences as a value in Arizona. Senator Allen has disqualified herself and we ask for her immediate removal,” said AEA President Joe Thomas in a written statement to the press.

Meanwhile, another brushfire has erupted in the race – this one stoked by remarks by Wendy Rogers, also running in the Republican primary against both Allen and Rep. Bob Thorpe, who was term-limited out of his house seat and is now seeking to move to the senate.

The Republican Party touched off this argument on July 24 when it put in its newsletter a claim that while campaigning in the district Rogers told people that neither Thorpe nor Allen were running, allegedly to get them to sign her nominating petitions. You can only sign one nominating petition in a given race.

The “alert” said “numerous reports from Navajo County have been received and confirmed by affidavit that candidate Wendy Rogers has been in Snowflake and Taylor going door-to-door asking registered voters to sign her petition. During this process, Rogers has told people that she is the only candidate running in 2020 for the LD6 state senate … Rogers is fraudulently obtaining registered voter signature.”

The notice went on to accuse Rogers of “smearing” and “lying” about candidates in past congressional races, including Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and State Sen. Steve Smith. The notice said Smith’s former employer is suing Rogers for defamation.

Roger’s campaign maintained the “alert” was written by political operatives “who appear to be very upset by Wendy’s primary win last cycle and who appear to stop at nothing to take Wendy out.”

The campaign denied Rogers lied about other candidates in the senate race. “Wendy didn’t know it was her job to promote other candidates when talking to voters. If asked who she is running against, she tells them every time. We find it bizarre that it is Wendy’s job to promote other candidates. If the other two people in this primary race are promoting Wendy, then great! But not recommended. We respectfully ask that you to denounce the statement and correct the record that it is completely false and unsubstantiated. It is a complete smear job by some desperate people who are too afraid to put their name on it,” wrote Spence Rogers.

A retired Army colonel, Rogers is a fifth-generation military officer and one of the first women to earn her pilot’s wings. She flew transport jets and served as an instructor pilot. She retired in 1996 to start her own home inspection business. She holds degrees in social work as well as national security studies. She has been development director of a charter school, a foster parent and a substitute teacher, according to her website. She won the 1st Congressional District Republican primary in 2018, but lost to Democrat Tom O’Halleran. In 2016, she lost a primary battle in the same district against Paul Babeu, who O’Halleran then defeated.

The Roger’s campaign was reacting to an unsigned e-mail alert that went to Republicans.

The Independent also received the alert in an email from Dwight Kadar. The email listed contact information for the Republican County Chairs for all four counties in the district.

During her recent appearance in Payson, Sen. Allen said she decided to run again to make sure the Republican Party doesn’t lose the seat – since she considered Thorpe the weaker candidate. Felica French nearly beat him when she ran for a House seat in 2018.

The state’s voter-approved term limits often prompt House and Senate incumbents to periodically change seats — with term-limited senators running for the house and vice versa. Incumbent Rep. Brenda Barton in 2018 tried to convince Allen to switch seats, but failed. A challenge to Barton’s nominating petition signatures forced her to drop out.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

Bagnal Fire sputters to conclusion

SHOW LOW — The Bagnal Fire, which subjected local neighborhoods to significant smoke from time to time since it was started by lightning last Friday, hit most of the edges of the prescribed perimeter by Wednesday.

Reduced fuels and heavy rain on Wednesday night also pushed down the intensity of the fire significantly, and the resulting smoke as well.

The fire was last reported at 2,200 acres.

As the fire died down, some breathed a sigh of relief.

As evidenced by comments on social media, the proximity of the blaze to neighborhoods and subdivisions in Show Low and Linden made some people nervous. The Forest Service also received complaints about smoke from the fire. With recent major wildfires in California, such as the Camp Fire which burned down an entire town and killed dozens of people, and memories of Rodeo-Chedeski, some nearby residents remained edgy.

Although the fire was started by lightning, it seemed unclear from Forest Service communications how the fire was being handled — as a managed fire or a fire that would be fully suppressed as soon as possible due to safety concerns. Forest Service press releases indicated that the fire was not a threat to structures or infrastructure, but again did not elaborate further.

The first press release issued on July 27 noted that the fire would likely grow, even with the rain in the forecast, but mentioned no management objective for the fire. Subsequent press releases did not elaborate any further. The size of the fire appeared to be in question on Monday as well, as the Forest Service press release showed the fire at 50 acres, the same as it was on Saturday, but other sources showed it at about 1,000 acres.

On July 29, the Forest Service released a map showing the area and planned perimeters for the fire for the first time, three days after it started. On July 29 Doreen Ethelbah-Gatewood, public affairs officer for Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests told the Independent the Bagnal Fire was being managed initially as a “modified-suppression” fire, but that the status changed to “full suppression.” After requesting further information, Forest Service officials confirmed the size of the fire was closer to 1,000 acres.

The Independent has requested interviews with Forest Service personnel to learn more about the management of the Bagnal Fire and how the USFWS conducts controlled fires and fights wildfires that are close to communities.